Valérie Maltais earns career-best fifth place finish in 3000m
HEERENVEEN, NETHERLANDS – It was a golden day for Canada at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen, as both the men’s and women’s squads were crowned Team Sprint world champions to kick off the season-ending competition.
A gold medal skate from Ivanie Blondin, Carolina Hiller and Brooklyn McDougall helped Canada reach its first podium of the event, and the Quebec trio of Christopher Fiola, Laurent Dubreuil and Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu followed up with a second title only a few moments later.
Blondin (Ottawa, Ont.), Hiller (Prince George, B.C.) and McDougall (Calgary, Alta.) were in synch the entire race, grabbing the lead following the first of three laps and never looking back. They posted a time of 1:26.29 to defeat the United States (+0.29), who were reigning World Cup champions, and China (+1.57).
With the win, the trio adds World Championship gold to the three World Cup silver medals they captured earlier this season. It’s Canada’s second World Championship podium in the women’s Team Sprint, having also won silver back in 2019.
Not to be outdone, Fiola (Montreal, Que.), Dubreuil (Lévis, Que.) and Gélinas-Beaulieu (Sherbrooke, Que.) made some history of their own by winning Canada’s first World Championship medal in the men’s Team Sprint since the discipline was introduced.
The trio – who last skated together at the World Cup in Calgary last December – overcame a bit of a sloppy start to claim the top spot. Sitting third after the opener, Gélinas-Beaulieu caught up to his teammates and proceeded to find another gear, putting forth a tremendous solo lap to secure gold. The Canadians crossed the line in 1:19.26, ahead of the hometown Dutch (+0.41) and Norwegians (+0.54).
Valérie Maltais was Canada’s top individual distance finisher on Thursday evening, earning a career-best fifth place result in the women’s 3000m.
The 32-year-old, who was paired with eventual gold medalist Ragne Wiklund of Norway, willed her way across the line in 3:59.88, just shy of her personal best of 3:59.220. It marks only third time in her career that that she has broken the 4-minute mark in the seven and a half lap race.
Maltais finished one spot ahead of the next closest Canadian, Isabelle Weidemann (+4.46), while teammate Ivanie Blondin was ninth (+8.58). Norway’s Wiklund (3:56.86), who was victorious in four of six long distances this World Cup season, captured her first career World Championship title in the distance. She was joined on the podium by crowd favourite Irene Schouten of the Netherlands (+0.54) and Czech veteran Martina Sáblíková (+0.54).
The ISU World Speed Skating Championships continue on Friday with the men’s and women’s 500m and Team Pursuit. The races will be live streamed on CBC Sports and Radio-Canada Sports digital platforms, with Olympians Anastasia Bucsis and François-Olivier Roberge providing colour commentary in English and French, respectively.
“Becoming World Champion with Carolina and Ivanie is incredibly special. We were so consistent all season, finishing second each World Cup. Upgrading to gold at the World Championships was perfect! I will never forget this feeling with these girls.”Brooklyn McDougall
“Today’s performance was exceptional. It’s a great feeling to see your teammates give themselves body and soul, one after another, to finally give way to you. Being a World Champion in the Team Sprint is even more fun because I can share it with others. It’s a race we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu
- Valérie Maltais: 5th
- Isabelle Weidemann: 6th
- Ivanie Blondin: 9th
- Graeme Fish: 13th
- Jordan Belchos: 17th
- Ted-Jan Bloemen: 18th
- Women’s: 1st
- Men’s: 1st